Thursday, 8 October 2015

Fear the Walking Dead (2015) - Zombie Show Review

I was very excited when I first learnt that The Walking Dead was to receive a spin off show, after all that's an amazing program so how could a spin off, even one with far less budget fail to impress? Over six episodes of near tedium I came to learn the hard way just how this could indeed fail to impress.

A strange disease has taken root in America, yet for Travis and his family the world is still pretty much normal, rumours of this disease are just that; rumours and so daily life continues. However when Travis's junkie son Nick turns up in hospital babbling about walking corpses events in the city soon start to escalate, and pretty soon it is apparent to all that a world changing event is in motion, one that will change things forever.

I confess I had assumed upon learning that this spin off featuring a couple of characters from season 1 of The Walking Dead would actually take place in the same time frame, so when I sat down to watch the first episode and discovered it was actually about the genesis of zombie apocalypse I was pretty much blown away. The first episode starts in such a clever fashion that until Nick flees from the ruined church he's squatting in you just don't know it is still the world we all know, he bursts from a dark dank place full of zombies to a bright day in down town L.A with a pan to reveal the bustling city. A good start then but unfortunately for much of the shows run time it is only down hill from there.

The biggest and most glaring fault with Fear the Walking Dead is the characters; there is not a single likable one among the lot of them. It is a good thing to have deep layered characters but when you only see the bad side of them, the squabbling and arguments then they just become irritating. So first off we have Travis the concerned father. Travis is pretty much the antithesis of Rick from the main show. He is meek and does not want to cause any trouble, someone who is far more ready to use a diplomatic approach than to actually get his hands dirty, his refusal to see zombies as anything more than ill people annoys throughout, His druggie son Nick is a very selfish and uncaring idiot, the fact that he steals an old man's clothes in episode two and then never takes them off for the rest of the season really got on my nerves, he has plenty of opportunity not to dress like an old man...any way. Next up is Travis's wife Madison, her low point comes when rather than let her daughter know the undead are walking the Earth she instead refuses to tell her anything, literally silent as her daughter begs her to tell her what is going on. Talking of the daughter Alicia she is a one dimensional air head who has nothing to her at all. Finally we have Travis's son from another marriage Chris, by far the most annoying character as his obliviousness to the changing world is infuriating, he is constantly doing the most ridiculous things. My point with all this is that how are you supposed to root for characters you cannot actually stand? It felt wrong to actually get pleasure out of seeing these people get into peril, I wished for them to die rather than survive.

There are quite a few secondary characters and they are all better than the main group, it wasn't until the fifth episode that my favourite character appeared; Strand. This refined suit wearing man exudes personality and stole his scenes, just a shame he appeared so late. A lot of the trouble comes due to what you witness in terms of plot all being from the side lines, occasionally the cast just happen to be where the action is (such as Chris at the riots that signal the end of civilisation) but for the most part they are sitting around not really doing much at all while far off somewhere or other the army are fighting a losing battle. The amount of zombies or lack thereof is something Fear seems to thrive on, usually around two or three are seen per episode, while the fourth one doesn't feature a single rotting undead at all. This may transfer well into the comics but for a show about zombies the lack of them seemed like a bizarre choice, though admittedly the zombie-less episode was my second favourite.

I appreciate showing the end of the world in such a short time was hard but there seems to be huge gaps in advancement, the biggest is between the third and fourth episodes where it seems that literally over night the world dies, people driving around and walking one day, the next barren wasteland. It is suggested that this virus has popped up in cities all over America yet zombies are still unknown. With everyone who dies automatically turning into roaming corpses just how did it go unnoticed so long? The amount of people who die each day; baffling that this didn't become a epidemic immediately rather than zombies somehow secretly living amongst humans (they at times do a good job at hiding, such as when Travis explores the drug den his son thought he encountered a bunch of the rotters only to find them all mysteriously gone. The whole police brutality early plot thread is very heavy handed in its obvious message about the police in America today, while the main plot for season 1 that comes about is one born of necessity. How do you make a group of annoying idiots people you root for? By giving them an enemy who are even more annoying and stupid is how. Half the decisions all the characters make in this show are baffling or created just for plot. People going off on their own into dangerous situations for literally no good reason at all (Chris, Madison, Alicia to name a few), antagonists who are only the bad guys due to bizarre plans (Operation Cobalt anyone?), these are all such stupid things.

It isn't all bad, it really isn't, each episode has at least a couple of scenes which I thought were pretty cool, but for the most part it is people stood around talking. For me while I do see the aim the show was going for; more of a thinking mans approach, and a study into how the end of society affects on a family level a lot of the time it was just so tedious. The zombies look a lot different as they are the recently deceased and so not rotted. The make up is pretty decent and what action there is is not that bad, especially the final episode (more on that later). I think I just struggled to get my head around the fact that zombies are treated as ill people, even when attacking people they are still thought of as humans that could possibly be cured, that is due to having knowledge that at this point in the time line just wasn't known. Setting the show at the very genesis of apocalypse was a good choice but the speed at which this downgrade occurs was a little jarring.

If the show had continued in this fashion and limped to the end with a poor finale I would be totally done with it, but as it so happens episode six is by far the best episode, out classing all that came before it with ease. Finally action and excitement happens with around ten times as many zombies crammed in this one episode than all the others put together, awe inspiring to see so many after such a drought. It was this final episode where the main cast finally started to show back bone, Travis in particular reaching breaking point and becoming someone who has the chance to survive, while Nick finally seemed to have more to him than just being a drug addict for once, his brother Chris still manages to be supremely annoying though. I finally saw potential and while it could not make up for the tedium of what came before it left me actually with some hope for the future of the series. This last thrilling episode alone earned this season an extra zombie head.

I don't know what I expected from a spin off, but certainly not a program as dull as this, mistaking annoying characters for deep well rounded ones makes it near impossible to care at all about their fates (and some main characters do not survive season 1), while the lack of action, or the action there is brought on by sheer stupidity that made me infuriated. I reiterate, if you are rooting for the bad guys to win then you know something is going wrong. Still I can't deny the finale is simply stunning and I can only hope this momentum is brought along for the second season that is due to air next year.


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